Seeing the Woods

A blog by the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society


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Lives Wasted: Garbage as a Forgotten Dimension of the European “Refugee Crisis”

by Maximilian Feichtner and Theresa Leisgang

A deflated rubber boat is washed up on the eastern coast of Chios. Once the waves have buried it under rocks and it becomes even more entangled with seagrass, you will hardly be able to see it. But for tourists strolling along the beach, this isn’t the only reminder of the boat landings by refugees who crossed Europe’s borders at night. All across the beaches of the Aegean Islands, where tourists usually swim and sunbathe, refugees leave their life jackets, water bottles, soaked clothes—and the boats on which they started their journey to a new life. The waste is what connects both, tourists and refugees, in their everyday life, as both are caught up in a circle of producing and managing waste. Beyond that, the waste is a material trace of countless people’s struggles to survive and escape violent conflicts. It is a trace that tourists and islanders would like to ignore; a trace, however, that won’t disappear by itself.

About one million people arrived on Greek shores in 2015 and the first few months of 2016, most of them fleeing war and persecution in Syria. Since March 2016, when the EU signed a deal with Turkey to halt the flow of migration to Europe, arrivals via the Aegean Sea dropped dramatically. However, possibly due to rising tensions regarding EU-Turkey relations, numbers are increasing again: 4,609 people reached Greece via boat in September 2017 according to the UNHCR. With them, the amount of discarded rubber dinghies, sports boats, and other waste on the islands will likely amount to tonnes. Their waste comes in addition to the already existing refugee boats, carelessly piled up in the hinterland, turning pastures into ship graveyards. What remains undiscussed in the broader public and political debates is the potential environmental crisis that risks adding another level of complexity to the so-called “refugee crisis” in Europe. Continue reading


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The Taproom: Jeffrey Pilcher

“The Global Invention of Lager Beer”

By Jeffrey Pilcher

largebeermap

“Around the World in 80 Beers.” Image courtesy of PureTravel.com.

“Around the World in 80 Beers.” It’s an arresting image of the globalization of beer. This map on the PureTravel website depicts each country according to its bestselling or iconic national brand: from Budweiser in the United States and Corona in Mexico, to Tsingtao in China and Oettinger in Germany. What is so striking about the image is that, with the sole exception of Ireland’s Guinness Stout, every label represents a single style: light, crisp, clear, Pilsner lager. The global spread of lager beer can be told as a story of Western cultural imperialism: A European product sails out in the hands of merchants, migrants, and imperialists to upend social patterns and transform landscapes around the world. But modern lager beer is just as much a product of globalization, invented and reinvented in locations around the world. Continue reading


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Call for Papers: The Environmental History of the Pacific World

Conference – Sun Yat Sen University, Guangzhou, China

24 May – 26 May 2018

Location: Sun Yat Sen University, Guangzhou, China

Sponsors: The Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, Ludwig Maximilians University, Munich; Department of History and The Center for Oceania Studies, Sun Yat Sen University, Guangzhou; The Center for Ecological History, Renmin University of China, Beijing.

pacific world

The Pacific Ocean is the ancient outcome of plate tectonic movement, creating one of the largest eco-regions on earth. Although navigators explored those waters early on, and peoples spread to all the ocean’s shores and penetrated as far into the center as the Hawaiian archipelago, it was not until the 16th century that the great body of water was discovered as a whole and mapped at a global scale. Since then, the Pacific has become a place of increasing human-nature interaction—through international trade, warfare, cultural interchange, and extraction of resources. Our conference aims to bring this ocean more fully into the discourse of environmental historians.

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Climates of Migration: An Interview with Uwe Lübken

pic_luebkenIn a kind of commentary on the Kyoto Protocol, researchers at the Rachel Carson Center are studying historical examples that illustrate the scale of population displacement that climate change can bring about. In this interview the head of the project, Uwe Lübken, discusses questions of climate and migration

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